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Arthur Ashe – A Life of Service and Impact!

Arthur Ashe was an American tennis player who showed his greatness both on and off the court. This year, as the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, which is now played at Arthur Ashe Tennis Center in New York City, celebrates it’s 50th year, it is a good time to look back at his amazing life of service and impact!

First, here are some quotes from Arthur Ashe.  In them, you can see a man who was focused on a lot more than tennis!

  • “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”
  • “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
  • “To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”
  • “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

Besides being one of the best African American tennis players in history, Ashe was also a man of service. He used his success on the tennis court as a way to draw attention to the causes he believed in and to improve the lives of others.  He focused on helping children, improving healthcare and supporting civil rights – giving all people an equal chance at success.

Ashe’s childhood had some tough times. His mom, who taught him to read by age 4, passed away when he was only 6 years old. But his father stepped in and provided a lot of discipline and focus. Ashe started playing tennis when he 7 years old and thanks to great coaching and hard work, earned a tennis scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles.

He became a truly gifted tennis player.  Ashe became the first African American to be ranked number 1 in the world! He won many championships, often the first African-American to do so.  As a competitor in a sport that was dominated by Caucasians at the time, he felt firsthand some of the injustices suffered by African-Americans during this period. And so he worked hard to raise awareness and fight against these injustices.

In addition, health setbacks Arthur suffered became the focus of more activism on his part, as he worked to raise awareness about AIDS and help those inflicted by it. He also put a lot of effort into helping children learn to play tennis to help them build confidence and gain fitness.

Arthur Ashe died in 1993.  But his legacy lives on.  Beyond his tennis achievements, he is remembered as a man of true greatness who helped change the world for the better.

These videos pay tribute to Arthur’s inspiring life and impact:

Additional Resources:

  • Here is the official website for Arthur Ashe, where you can learn all about this inspirational man.
  • Here is another website devoted to Arthur Ashe and his legacy.

Topics for Discussion:

  • Why was Arthur not content to simply bask in his tennis success?
  • Arthur took issues that affected him and worked to make them better. Is there an issue affecting your life that you could work to make better?

Take Action:

  • Arthur Ashe’s quote about greatness says to “start where you are, use what you have, do what you can”. What can you do today to put his words into action on your own path to greatness?
  • Visit the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health website to learn more about this great organization and how you can support it!

Teacher Features:

  • Here is a link to a Critical Reading Skills worksheet that you can use for elementary school students.
  • Here is a link to a Critical Reading Skills worksheet that you can use for middle school students.


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